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Friday, November 30, 2012

Baby Boy Hollis-with-a-W, Brother to Corin Henry

Sarah writes:
Hope you can provide some guidance here for a couple of picky parents. We have a toddler son named Corin Henry, last name sounds like Hollis-with-a-W.

We love his name and we like that most people can say and spell it with little prompting, but it's different from most other names at the local park. It also suits our backgrounds - Scottish Canadian and English/Scottish Australian. The middle name honours his grandfather and great-grandfather (by using their middle names).

Now that we felt we did rather well naming our first, we're stuck trying to find an equally wonderful name for a second boy.

We live in a large, culturally diverse urban centre, so the naming options out there are wild and almost nothing unusual is unheard of. We are not worried if the name seems slightly feminine, in fact I rather it than a macho boy name like Rock or Axel. We like names from the British/Scottish/Welsh extraction. They just suit our background. Other guiding principles, I prefer two-syllable names for boys and don't like a plethora of common nicknames.

Our first decision was Errol which I love, but I got turned off it when I found some strange people on the internet that would have our son's first and last name. ARGH GOOGLE.

All of our other choices are mostly E names:
Emery/Emory  - wondering if it skews too female these days, I prefer the 'o' spelling but I think the college is pronounced Em-OR-y
Emrys/Emry - I like Emrys but the double 's' sound of the first and last names seems a bit lispy to me. Also the pronunciation of Emry does sound awfully like our first son's middle name. We wonder if people will just think we're mispronouncing Henry, which is a common name in our neighbourhood.

other names I've liked:


My husband isn't on board with any of these especially, but does not mind Rufus. It has the same double-s sound with our last name.

I'm stuck for any other suggestions. 

Hope you can help!

The first name that came to mind was Omri: similar to Emory and Emry, but not currently used for girls. (In the United States, Emory/Emery/Emry are all used more often for girls than for boys.) Omri is the name of the little boy in the book The Indian in the Cupboard, one of my favorite books from childhood. It's almost unused (only 26 baby boys were given the name in the U.S. in 2011), but not too difficult to say or spell. I spent a little time online looking up the pronunciation: most sources say it's AWM-ree. One or two gave an alternate pronunciation of a long O sound and an emphasis on the second syllable: ohm-REE. My family said it AHM-ree: the O sound of Oliver.

The second name that came to mind was Arlo: similar to Errol, but perhaps without any shady associations.

The third name that came to mind was Ruben: similar to Rufus, but without the S-ending issue.

I wonder if you'd like Earl or Karl or Darrell or Merrill instead of Errol?

Or Claude or Alton or Alden or Odin instead of Auden?

A few more possibilities:

Russell (maybe too much L and S with the surname)

Name update! Sarah writes:
Thought I would update you on the name of our second son, born a few days ago.

We went back and forth on a few names before the birth, with Errol back in the mix along with a few of your suggestions, but THE name never emerged. When he was born, my husband felt strongly immediately he was a little Rufus (I love the nn Roo) so we set about finding a middle to break up the double-s sounding ends.

We settled on my father's name Wyndham, and together we think the name sounds lovely, as well as being a suitable companion name for his besotted brother Corin.

Thank you so much for your help and that of your readers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Name Update!

Update (and photo!) on Middle Name Challenge: Ellery _____ Montgomery!

Baby Boy Holland, Brother to Carter Nicholas

Jen writes:
We are having a baby boy (due 3/23). Most of the boy names were on our list the first time around and so it feels as though all of the names have been discussed before and it is...less fun. Our first is Carter Nicholas Holland. Nicholas is my husband's name and it is a tradition from his side of the family we chose to follow. If this baby had been a girl, the short list we had included Stella, Penelope, Josephine, and Scarlett.

Right now our list is:


As you can surmise from the list, we generally like shorter, surnamey names. Both my husband and I would probably be fine with any of these. His favorite right now is Brooks, while mine is Grant. Are we missing a good first name option since the list is just a repeat of what was there but ultimately not selected before? The only new name is Dexter and I'm not sure I like repeating the -ter. Names that were on the list but have been dismissed are Pierce and Lincoln. We like Lincoln but for me Carter and Lincoln is a little too much matching with President surnames (I do realize Grant is as well, but it isn't as obvious, right?).

For the middle, we have thought of using my father's name, Gary, or a great-grandfather's name, Merrill or Roger, both of whom have passed away. None of these names are really our style but we like using a family name since Carter has a family tradition for his middle. Another idea we had for the middle was to use initials only for the middle names, as it is quite common on my father's side of the family. My papa's (Merrill) middle name was D, my uncle's name is J, and my great-uncle was J W. This would allow us to honor both the great-grandfathers. So it would be Brooks R M Holland or Grant R M Holland, etc. I thought of using the initial only but my husband thought of having both initials in there. I think since we like shorter names, it feels like too much to him to have a full double middle, as in Brooks Roger Merrill Holland. Is the double initial-only middle names strange? Should we just pick one of the names?

Of course I realize there is plenty of time but I already feel like we've exhausted the topic.

Thanks so much for your help!

I've found that every name can stand to have something unusual about it, but that it works best to limit the number of unusual things. In this situation, you've got three unusual ideas to consider:

1. Initial-only name

2. Two middle names

3. Changing concepts between first child's name and second child's name

I think I would choose no more than two of those. If, for example, you had given your first child two initial-only middle names, it would be no big deal to do the same for your second child. Or if you wanted to give your first child a middle name and your second child a middle initial, I think that would be okay. Or if you wanted to give your first child one middle name and your second child two middle names, I think that would be okay. But I don't think I would give a first child a single regular middle name, and then give a second child two initial-only middle names.

On the other hand, I've found that having a good explanation can topple a tower of unusual things. For example, if in this case you explained to people that you'd named your first son using a naming tradition from his dad's side, and your second son using a naming tradition from your own side, that makes pretty quick work of combining three unusual things into one.

If you'd prefer, however, to follow the same pattern as your first son's name, I don't think there's any need to try to cram in more than one honor name. When you named your first son, you gave him just one honor name as a middle name, without trying to honor the other side of your husband's family as well. I think the same choice would be perfectly appropriate for the second child: give him one name from one side of your family. My own preference would be to honor your father, especially since he's alive to enjoy the honor, or to choose whichever grandfather you were closer to. I think honor names are most satisfying when they are given based on relationship rather than on naming style.

But there's something to be said for naming style, too, and on that basis I think if I were you I might solve the dilemma by first choosing a favorite first name, and then using whichever honor name sounds best with it in the middle. Carter Nicholas and Grant Merrill, perhaps, or Carter Nicholas and Sebastian Gary, or Carter Nicholas and Brooks Roger.

I agree with you that Carter and Lincoln is a very presidential combination, and that Carter and Grant is less so. Graham seems even better: very similar to Grant, with no presidential issue at all.

Here are a few more possibilities to consider:


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Ellie !llingworth

Erin writes:
I am in need of some unbiased opinions.  I would love if you could do a poll for me.  I don't want to ask family or friends because I think I will not be able to take their opinions separate from what my opinions of them are.

My husband and I are expecting our first baby in March - a girl.  Our last name is !llingworth.  One of our top girl names is Ellie.  I love the way it sounds and it means shining light.  My husband and I are Christian and many of our favorite Bible verses talk about being a light.

However I am worried about the Vowel - double L - I combo that would be in both her first and last name.

Other girl names that we like are (this is probably the order of what we like)


Her middle name will be Kay after me and my mom.

For reference, if we were expecting a boy we liked the names

Matthias (family name)
Jamieson (family name)
Augustus (would go by Gus)

We are hoping to have three children

So can you help us?  Is Ellie !llingworth to much of a mouthful?


My own opinion is that the Elli-Illi of Ellie !llingworth is definitely highly noticeable, but that it might land right in that zone of Distinctive/Memorable rather than Silly/Difficult. I think you're right that we need a poll; I've put one over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

The name Ellie doesn't have a meaning, per se; the name Ellie started as a nickname of other names, so it would have the same meaning as whatever name it was a nickname of. For example, if the full name were Elle, the name and its nickname could both be said to mean "she"; if the full name were Elizabeth, the name and its nickname could both be said to mean "God is my oath"; if the full name were Penelope, the name and its nickname could both be said to mean "duck." (Meanings taken from The Oxford Dictionary of First Names.)

One possibility if the meaning is important to you is to take a name that is said to mean light, and then use Ellie as the nickname; this would in some cases also reduce the Elli-Illi effect. Elena, for example, is the Spanish/Italian version of the name Helen, which may mean ray, sunbeam, or sun.

Another possibility is to use a baby name book or website that sorts names by meaning (I have Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names) and look in light-related sections for other options: Clara, Lucia, Lucy, Neve, Phoebe.

I'd double-check with a reliable guide such as The Oxford Dictionary of First Names, however: many baby name books use meanings they found in other baby name books, so the meanings are only as reliable as the sources used---and of the sources THOSE sources used. Often I'll find that a name's connection to its reported meaning is so slim as to be almost completely irrelevant, and that it would be just as accurate to make a similarly tenuous link to a completely different meaning. Entire categories of names without meanings of their own are sometimes assigned the meaning of a similar name. And some names have an assortment of meanings from the different languages that came up them.

To give an example, Baby Names Made Easy says the name Etta means "light" from Yiddish and "little" from German. The Oxford Dictionary of First Names says it's a feminine diminutive---that is, letters added to a name to make it cute and girlish.

To give another example, Baby Names Made Easy says the name Kira means "light" from Latin and Russian, and "sun" from Persian. The Oxford Dictionary of First Names says Kira is a variant spelling of Kyra; that Kyra is from either the Greek and means "lady," or else a feminine version of Cyrus, or else a feminine version of Kyran. Kyran turns out to be a variant of Kieran, and Kieran turns out to be an Anglicized version of the Irish name Ciarán, and Ciarán turns out to be a diminutive of the Irish word for "black." Hm. So that's not "light." Let's follow Cyrus instead. The origin of the name Cyrus is not known, but it was associated with the Greek word kyrios, or "lord." So that doesn't give us "light," either. Even if Cyrus or Ciarán DID give us the meaning light, would that mean the Anglicized feminized version Kira means light as well?

Which is not to say it would be wrong to use the name Ellie and go with the source you found that said it meant light. Meanings are not inherent to names---that is, no one is Lord of Name Meanings, giving each name its Real True Meaning of What It Really Truly Means. The name Ellie is a collection of letters we traditionally use as a name for girls; if you like to think of it as meaning "light" and of that meaning as having a pleasing connection to your religious beliefs, there will be no Name-Meaning Police coming out of the shadows to verify the source and give you a ticket if that source isn't traceable back to a stone tablet.

If I were you, though, I might prefer to go with Annie/Anna, which through its connection to the name Anne, and the name Anne's connection to the name Hannah, is said to mean "God has favored us with a child."

Or the name Grace can of course be connected to the biblical concept of grace, if you like.

Or Isabelle comes to us from Isabel, which is connected to the name Elizabeth, which is the usual English spelling of Elisabeth, which as we've mentioned is said to mean "God is my oath." However, I think Isabelle !llingworth is a little tricky to say.

If name meanings were important to me, I probably would not choose Cora, with its connections to the goddess of the underworld; Persephone/Cora was a nice girl, herself, but Hell is not a good neighborhood. I'd choose Clara instead, with its connections to light and brightness and clarity. Or I might choose Eleanor (nicknames Nora, similar to Cora, and also Ellie), which could also be connected to Helen (ray, sunbeam, sun).

All right, enough chit-chat. To the poll! [Poll closed; see results below.]

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Parsley

Heather writes:
I didn't expect to be writing you pre-pregnancy but I have something I'm genuinely curious about. It concerns a name I found in a cute story I read once about a little girl named Patsy who tried the herb parsley and loved it so much that it was all she would eat. Her parents eventually changed her name to Parsley after her favourite food. It made me curious about why the name Parsley has never actually been tried when so many other spices and green plants are the source of beloved classics? There are the tried and true names Sage, Basil, Ivy, and Rosemary, and the spunkier Pepper, Anise and Cinnamon (though those are pretty brave choices). I've heard Bay and Sorrel on little boys. Ground cover plants like Tansy and Clover are being used, and they are just as unassuming looking as Parsley. I think it sounds quite sweet if you give it a chance. It has a lot of the same sounds as girls' names Presley, Paisley, and Pemberly that are quite fashionable nowadays. What do you think? Is Parsley just too out there, and if so, what makes it that much crazier than Sage or Clover? Is it quirky and appealing or downright blegh? I find it fresh, though I can't imagine being brave enough to use it myself. I'd love to know what you and your readers think.

Isn't that funny, how certain jewel/flower/month/nature names get used completely routinely, and the others seem quirky almost to the point of bizarre? We can name babies April, May, and June all year long, but February and March would be startling. Rose and Lily and Violet seem like normal names, but Daffodil and Tulip don't. Ruby and Pearl, sure!---but Quartz and Topaz are going to get comments.

I don't know why some words get established as names and others don't. I do know that it never seems to work to protest that things SHOULD work: either they do work, or else they don't. Parsley SHOULD work: it definitely does sound like Paisley and Presley, and it definitely does sound sweet, and in theory it shouldn't be any weirder than Sage or Rosemary. But right now my opinion is that it doesn't work---that it goes beyond quirky and into comical, along with Garlic and Oregano. I think it would make a distinctive and excellent pet name, however.

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks. [Poll closed; see results below.] I'm using the same poll options as usual, but I'm noticing that some of the categories are a little shaky: like, what if you love the name but feel it's absolutely unusable for a child? Choosing "strong dislike" seems inappropriate---and yet I think that's what the right vote option would be. I will try to think of better and more accurate categories for future polls.

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Parsley?" (531 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 3 votes (1%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 13 votes (2%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 68 votes (13%)
No particular opinion - 25 votes (5%)
Slight dislike - 157 votes (30%)
Strong dislike - 265 votes (50%)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Naming Issue: Are the Initials PMS a Dealbreaker?
Update (and photo!) on Should a Girl Named Sloane Have a More Feminine Middle Name?
Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy or Girl Moore
Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy David$on, Brother to Miles Ru$$ell
Update on Baby Girl or Boy Cartons, Sibling to Carys and Hollis

Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine

If you would like to read me on a paper page for a change, you can get your hands on a copy of the November issue of Pregnancy & Newborn: there's baby name talk just inside the back cover, and I'm one of the talkers.

front cover
the talking

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Is the Third Child's Name Too Different in Style?

Nicole writes:
We are quickly approaching the due date of baby # 3 and would love your opinion on our potential girl's name...
My husband and really like Joelle Aimee.  It honours both my sisters in different ways, we love the meaning, and think it's pretty, elegant, and timeless.
Here's where I'm stumbling: We already have two daughters: Peyton & Mackenzie.  I realize that both their names fall into the "unisex/british surname" category/style (generally speaking) and I'm worried that 'Joelle' deviates too much from this?  I know that these categories and rules (as you so recently reminded us all!) are only guidelines... but I also don't want to choose a name that stands out like a sore thumb!  If you have other suggestions as alternatives, we'd love to hear... We'd prefer a name that has a different ending sound than our girls' names, and would consider the following names as middle names: Nicole, Sara, Danielle, or Aimee (all are significant within our family).

Name update! Nicole writes:
Thanks so much for posting my question back in November... To refresh your memory: we were unsure whether 'Joelle Aimee' sounded too different than our daughters' names, Peyton and Mackenzie. We were very encouraged by your readers remarks and were confident about our choice once receiving their feedback.

Only trouble was... We had a BOY!! He arrived December 7th (13 days overdue) and his name is Bennett Daniel. We love how this name fits with our girls' names... My only concern is that Bennett has crossed over as a female name, but most feedback (and I agree!) is that 'Ben' will always be a masculine name.

Thanks again,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Baby Boy or Girl Sherman, Sibling to Amelia and Norah

Marcy writes:
My husband and I are elated to be expecting our third child, gender unknown, due in June.  This little one is a surprise, but one we welcome and anticipate with great joy!  My husband is still exhausted of the naming talk of a year ago (when we named our youngest), but I am already turning all the options over in my mind.  I need a sounding board, and some great ideas.  When my friend Amy and I were both pregnant with our second daughters last year, you helped her choose the name Eliza, and I have full confidence that Swistle is just the place for us to find our third child's name.
We have a lot of time, but with 13 nieces and nephews and lots of friends with good name taste, many of my favorites are already taken (or a too-similar variant has been used).  We spend a LOT of time with our extended family.  So, while I'm sure others wouldn't worry a bit about similar cousin names, it would definitely cause concern for us.  Most of the cousins attend the same church and are engaged in regular playtime/activities together.  And of course Gram Gram would never figure out who's who with names too similiar!
We would love your input for both boy and girl names!  We're wide open when it comes to boys' names, though something more classic/traditional likely suits us best.  For a girl, her middle name will be Louise, after my mother.  I could consider it for a first name as well, but right now I'm leaning towards Louise for the middle.  I don't like the idea of modifying Louise to Louisa or Elouise.  I want to keep it as is.
My name is Marcy and my husband is Daniel. Our daughters are named Amelia Mae and Norah Lane.     Our last name sounds like Sherman. 
Amelia's name rang in at #55 on the SSN list for her year (was #68 on the list when we chose it, and we had no idea it would see such a jump.  It was up to #30 by 2011!), and Norah at #263 with the H (#137 without it, so a bit higher than that combined).  Like most folks, I think we'd prefer something outside the top 100, but really we're open to even a very common name, if it really is the perfect one for our baby.
A few of our "dont's":
  • Rhyming with our names, with sibling names, or with the middle name or last name;  
  • Name or nn too similar to Amelia's (Millie/Mil - and her sister calls her Mimi)
  • Name or nn too similar to Norah's (Nor, Norrie, Noley - her sister's name for her before she could say it properly)
  • Aything that would be nicknamed Ellie or Emmy or Addie (sooo common around here!);
  • Anything that causes a lispy-ness in the transition from the end of the first or middle name to the last name this includes most names ending in s).  That SH sound can be rough!
I'll begin with girls, since we have it a little more together in that arena!  Currently under consideration for a girl are Vivian/Vivien/Vivienne (spelling preference, anyone?), to be called Viv/Vivy/Vivie and Josie.  Both seem to work with Louise so it's not a bad place to start.  I do like Josephine for the full name, to be called Josie, but my husband does not like it, preferring Josie as-is. I think I could get into Violet too, but I feel like it only flows with Louise if it's prnounced "Vie-let" instead of "Vi-o-let".  How would most folks pronounce it?
In light of our close family and heap of cousins, these favorites of mine are OFF the table:
  • Clara (niece named Claire)
  • Anna (niece named Hannah)
  • Ada (niece named Ava)
  • Julia (niece named Julia Elizabeth)
  • Eliza (friend's daughter.)
  • Celia (same friend's older daughter)
  • Micah (we almost named our first Micah Marie, but changed late in the game to Amelia Mae afte rmy husband and I started swooning over Mae.  We now have very dear friends with a baby boy name Micah, so it's permanently nixed.
  • Abigail (niece name) - Although I wouldn't choose this with Louise anyway becasue of the L at the end
  • Chloe (friend's daughter)
We're struggling a little (okay, a LOT) more with a boy's name.  With our previous pregnancies, names considered for a boy were Cael Arthur (after my grandpa, Arthur), Grayson Paul (decided we really just like Gray, not Grayson or Grady as much), Charles (after my other grandpa) and Wilcox (my mother in law's maiden name). 
Cael is out now due to nephews named both Kade and Caleb.  I liked the name, but it was really my husband's pick. And Wilcox is already used as well.
Gray is still in the mix, as well as Charles and Paul (Daniel's middle name).  Although I actually prefer to use Daniel over Paul if we use my husband's name.  I love the name Daniel!  :)  Of course I'm not sure what's best to pair it with.  If we use it, I'd like it as a middle name instead of a first, to avoid confusion.  We also like Henry.  I Iike Mac/Mack (a nod to my maiden name, which is an Irish Mc name), but it's so much more casual than most of the other names we like.  It's probably not for us. I have just as I sit and type decided I like Benjamin, too. But we just aren't LOVING anything yet, and the list of names we like doesn't seem to be producing any amazing combinations.
I've listed a mix of my nephews' first and middle names below.  These are names we'd like to avoid. I think we can avoid the names on the Friends list too, though it's less of a priority:
FAMILY: Kade, Reed, August, Wilcox, Shepard, Wiliam, Adam, Joel, Wade, Kenneth, Caleb
FRIENDS: Micah, Jack, Christopher, Edison/Eddie, Isaac
My husband has vetoed James (he's not sure why, since we both like the name, but he just knows that's not it!) and Benjamin (I just asked him - same as with James - it's just not THE name, even though it's a name he likes). Finneus/Finneas/Phineas. I suggested Finneus Gray - which he says sounds like a storybook character and not a real person. :)  We also would not likely choose anything like Cooper, Carter, Parker, Hudson, etc.
I actually love August (a family name and one of the nephews' names).  It's obviously taken, but something with that vibe might be nice.  And I love Wiliam, as well as its nickname, Will.  It's nice to find a name that can sound both formal and a little serious (August/William) and also ornery (Gus/Will).
I sincerely hope you can help us wade through this mire of names before our heads explode trying to work it through on our own!
Thanks so much for your consideration!
I realize we're still a long way from our due date, and I'm really trying not to get all Shawshank Redemption on you by sending a new email every day/week/month, but as a quick update, I wanted you do know that my husband has now vetoed ALL of the girl names on our current list, save Josie.  Which I do like, but am not convinced enough to commit to.  EXHAUSTING.  You can see why we need to get an early start on this! :)  Anyway, I will do my best to restrain myself from begging/pleading/groveling for assistance (at least until we find out the gender :)).  I am having so much fun reading your site for inspiration in the meantime!

Name update! Marcy writes:
I really enjoyed all the feedback and ideas from you readers and from your many other posts! Thanks for posting my question! Your method of listing out all of the name options as well as listing the names within the sibling set was easy to put into practice on my own and extremely helpful to us.

We found out a week ago that we are having a girl, our third!  We are thrilled!

Despite working around a long list of "taken" names we liked, as well as sorting through our sometimes different naming preferences, my husband and I managed to produce a list of five names that pleased us both.   We finally landed on June Louise, which we both LOVE!

June entered the game late, since I had to decide if a June born in June was perfect, too cheesy, or maybe just didn't matter.   Once I settled on it being perfect (my husband's great Aunt June was a June born in June, also!), June quickly rose to the top of our mutual list, and won out over the others [the full list of names we could agree on included: Caroline Louise, Miriam Louise (my 2nd pl vote), Mariah Louise and Halle Louise (his 2nd pl vote)].

My pets that didn't pass the husband test included: Louise Adele (I love, love, love this, but I don't feel sad about not using it, since I'm now certain this baby is June!), Vivian Louise (the name I wanted for our next girl before we were even expecting, but that husband never loved) and Magnolia Faye (I think this felt too southern and unusual to the mister, but I discovered it on your site and couldn't help but swoon!  I also didn't want to give up Louise, but I liked Magnolia much better with Faye, and I my husband actually does like Faye).

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: An 8th-Generation Hephzibah

K. writes:
We are expecting our first baby, a little girl, in early December and have yet to settle on a name. In my family, there is a strong tradition of passing along family names; I am a seventh generation Hephzibah, although I go by my middle name. I feel somewhat compelled to pass along Hephzibah, but the baby will be taking my husband's last name, Budzick, which makes for a lot of B and Z sounds. If we don't use Hephzibah, I would like to have some family name connection to my side. Other family names on my side that I've considered for middle names are Catharine and Caroline.

First names that are on our list right now are Eloise, Esther, and Nora. 

Which combinations with the family names would you suggest with our first names, or can you suggest any other first names that might work? I hope you can help. Is there any way to gracefully incorporate Hephzibah? 

Thank you!

This letter has languished in my inbox while I wring my hands over it. On one hand, I can't advise ditching an 8th-generation name; on the other hand, the zi-bah-bud-zi of Hephzibah Budzick is a significant hurdle. What are the odds that of all the surnames in this world, it would be one that specifically challenged the use of the specific family name?

Well. It would not be the worst trial a child has ever faced. I see less-than-ideal name combinations all the time in credits and class lists. And if she went by a middle name as you do, she could have the family name and yet avoid most of the name awkwardness. In fact, we could maybe even spin the combination as awesome: two Z's! two B's! A very memorable and distinctive name!

Or Hephzibah could be the middle name.

Or is there room to consider not using your husband's surname?

I think it comes down to how you feel about it. I can't tell from the letter if you want to use the name, or if it's only a feeling of obligation to keep up the tradition. Have you been glad to have the name yourself? Do you think you would have felt unhappy if your parents had been the one to drop the tradition?

As Rita pointed out in a comment on another post about naming traditions, all naming traditions eventually get dropped, so it's just a matter of which set of parents drops it. It seems to me that the set of parents to drop it should be the first set that doesn't want to use the name. My in-laws dropped a "since our ancestors came from the old country" naming tradition when they named Paul, and Paul and I were both so very grateful; if they hadn't dropped it, we would have.

It's completely different, though, if you love the naming tradition and WANT to keep it. And it's an ancient name with a wonderful meaning (according to The Oxford Dictionary of First Names: "my delight is in her"---i.e., in the daughter), and it's an important name in your family. Those things seem to me to dwarf the surname issue if you'd like to continue to pass down the name.

If you decide not to use it as the first name, I do think I'd advise using it as the middle. Any of your first name options work with it. I think my favorite is Eloise, since it plays up the repeating Z sound in the three names.

If you decide not to use Hephzibah at all, my favorite combinations are Eloise Caroline, Esther Catherine, and Nora Catherine---but I liked both middle names with Eloise and Esther. (I was more opinionated about Nora because I didn't like the "ora" of Nora with the "aro" of Caroline.)

A few similar first names: Eliza, Louisa, Eleanor.

Name update! K. writes:
I wrote to you for advice a couple of months ago about what to name our baby girl. Well, she arrived (finally) on December 18, healthy and beautiful. I really appreciated your thoughtful response to my particular situation and all of the commenters' opinions as well. I was surprised at the overall positive response to my family name, Hephzibah, and it affirmed my feeling that I really did want to pass it on to my daughter. In the end, we chose it for her middle name, which seemed like the perfect solution. So, watch out world, because Eloise Hephzibah Budzick has arrived!

Thanks so much for your help!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baby Boy or Girl Roomy-with-a-T, Sibling to Finnian

Megan writes:
My husband and I have a 16 month old named Finnian.  We absolutely love his name and want to find one we love as much for his sibling due in February.   The gender is going to be a surprise, so we don't know if Finn will have a brother or sister.

Here's the thing,  I have a list of girl names picked out that my husband and I both really like.  I would be completely happy naming the baby any of them, so I'm not to worried on that account.  We are having no luck with boy names, however.
There aren't any family names that we would particularly like to use. We are Roman Catholic and prefer that the name have a saint associated with it, although my husband doesn't really like the style of Old Testament names. I would love a name that sounds good with Finnian, but not too "matchy" (like Kieran, Cian, Brendan, or Killian).
Here are the names we've considered so far:

Peter Campion- I like Peter a lot, but don't love the nn Pete,  love the mn Campion, after Edmund Campion

Benedict- This one has gotten turned down because of the generally negative connotations of Eggs Benedict, Benedict Arnold, and the teasing potential in the ending (DH hates Benjamin so that's a no go

Leo- I really like this name, but is becoming much too popular for my taste.  I'm afraid of picking too trendy a name, because I was one of a what seems like a million Megans born in the late 80s

Blaise- I love this name, unusual but not unheard of.  DH really can't get on board with it, however

Beckett- I like this name a lot, but DH says only as a middle name.

Our last name sounds like "Roomy," but with a "T."
Can you and your readers give us some other boy name suggestions?

p.s. Here are the girl names we like to give you a better idea of our style : Genevieve (nn Evie), Bridget, Gwendolyn, and Mariel

Thanks so much,

I'm not Roman Catholic, but I have the Saints section of The Baby Name Wizard. Without knowing any of the stories behind the names, I'd pick out:


If you like Blaise, I wonder if you'd like Blaine.

If you like Beckett and Benedict, I wonder if you'd like Bennett---perhaps with a saint's name as the middle name.

Would you want to consider Campion as the first name? Or using Edmund instead of (or in addition to) Campion?

Leo is somewhat more popular than Finn/Finnian (the Social Security Administration has Leo at #167 in 2011, near George, Alan, Maddox, Jonah, and Kenneth), but nowhere near the popularity of the name Megan---a Top 10 name in the 1980s. In 1985, there were over 20,000 new baby girls named Megan and another 4665 named Meghan; in 2011, there were 2226 new baby boys named Leo and 2631 named Leonardo. Even combining Leo and Leonardo and yet not counting Meagans and Meaghans and Megs (so, building up the Leos unfairly high, while reducing the Megans unfairly low), there were more than five times as many Megans per classroom in the 1980s than there are Leos per classroom now. My main hesitation about Leo would be not its popularity but rather that I think it's a little awkward with the surname.

Name update! Megan writes:
I wanted to thank you and your readers for all of your advice and input on boys' names. They gave us some great ideas for the future..  This time, however, we had a baby girl!  Genevieve Noelle was born on Valentine's day.  Big brother Finnian loves his little sister Gigi!
Thanks again,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: South Indian Surname Traditions

Holly writes:
I love your blog and how fairly you weigh everyone's options. I have been thinking of writing in with our surname problem for a while and am curious to see if you have any suggestions.

So, let me give you the basics first. I'm Holly Sch1ltz (rhymes with stilts) and my husband is V1gnesh "Vic" Vij@y@kumar (pronounced Vih-jai-yah-koo-mar--emphasis on the jai and mar syllables). We've been married for 2.5 year and I still have my maiden name.

I like my name and will probably just keep it, but I also have no problem changing my name for the sake of our family having a common name (husband included--we could be the so-and-so's or the so-and-so family). I haven't changed it yet because we don't have a clear choice for a family name. Vic doesn't care at all about what name I keep as a surname and has joked w/ his dad about giving all future kids my name. We've talked about it with them and though I'm sure they'd prefer us to keep with tradition, they aren't very forthcoming with opinions. So, the decision is ultimately ours without fear of repercussions.

The problem lies in his family's South Indian naming tradition. There is no family surname. Once a man (Firstname Lastname) marries, his wife and kids all take Firstname as their surname (Wife Firstname, Kid #1 Firstname, etc.) and the man will always have a different last name. Boys then keep their dad's first name (pass on their own first to their kids) and it's assumed that girls will take on their husband's first name. So, Vij@y@kum@r is my father-in-law's first name. So, I'd become Holly V1gnesh if we followed tradition (as would our kids) and Vic's name would stay the same. We've been told that you can trace family lineage way back to a certain priest's family that had a surname that is very long but this hasn't been used for generations and wouldn't really tie us to his family at all.

The actual question is what last name do we give our future kids?
  • Option 1: We follow tradition and give them my husband's Indian first name, V1gnesh, and I take that name on as well. In this scenario, my husband would have a different last name than the rest of the family.
  • Option 2: We give them V1gnesh as a surname and Vic and I retain our respective "maiden" names. If I change my name, I'd prefer that my whole family ends up with the same last name, as a group. We will probably always live where this naming tradition is not practiced and would forever have to explain it, so wouldn't it just be easier to have different last names than to go through the whole schpeal any time someone asks?
  • Option 3: We ditch that naming tradition and take up a family surname, Vic's last name. His cousins plan to do this (different last name) and his sister already has. But, Vic doesn't really want to pass on Vij@y@kum@r since hardly anyone can pronounce it and there's a lot of rhyming potential for kids in those first three syllables.
  • Option 4: We hyphenate. Hyphenating seems like a nightmare, this is not an actual option.
  • Option 5: Friends have suggested we all make up a new name using an anagram of both of our last names, but that seems like trouble with all of the strange consonants: s_c_h_i_l_t_z_v_i_j_a_y_a_k_u_m_a_r
  • Option 6: We shorten Vic's last name to Kumar. He's brought it up a couple of times in the 100's of times we've had this same conversation. It's a more common name than his last name.
  • Option 7: We give them my last name. I do feel a little weird about this. My family has a patriarchal naming system, my in-laws may be moving back to India in the next few years, and Vic doesn't care to teach our kids to speak Tamil or Hindi, so I don't want to cut out such a strong family tie if I'm not adamant about my name being passed on in the first place.

We plan to name our kids American names rather than Indian names--resulting in names that will be radically different than the list of surnames of men in the family before them. They can carry on the South Indian naming tradition if they want, but we figured the pattern would be broken our generation or the next. How bad would it be to make up a new name? Are there any identity issues involved with kids having different last names than both parents? Our kids will be ours and neither of us has strong feelings about them representing our family through surnames, but I'm concerned about how they'll feel growing up. Do you have any other options you'd recommend?

Thanks for any advice you could send our way!

My favorite option is to use the names from your husband's side of the family, combined with the surname traditions from your side of the family and the culture in which you live. That is, all of you become the Vij@y@kumars---or the Kumars, as your husband prefers. This seems like the best compromise for a complicated issue: it keeps a part from each side of the family while also giving you a unified family surname.

Another possibility is to give all the children V1gnesh (the name that would be their surname in South India) as a middle name or second middle name. Then they would have their complete South Indian names, but with another surname you would all take (Kumar, perhaps) tacked onto the end for ease of usage in your culture and for unity of family surname. Perhaps your original surname could be the first middle name, for ultimate inclusiveness.

If you were going to combine the names, I don't think I'd try to use all the letters. I'd use Schi1tz-Kumar to hyphenate, or something like Schilmar to combine.

As for the other questions (is it a problem to make up a new surname, are there identity issues involved in having an assortment of surnames in a family), those fall outside my area of experience. I suspect you will get anecdotes from across the entire spectrum, from "Everyone in our family had a different surname and I never even noticed, and no one else ever had a moment's confusion about it" to "I had a different surname from my mom and step-dad and it always made me feel excluded."

So many other issues contribute to such feelings: the cultural norms of the area the family lives in, whether there are other reasons a child might feel the surnames are symbolic of family cohesiveness, the personality of the particular child, etc. It seems like in this case the explanation of the issues involved in choosing a surname (and the exposure to the various surname systems of both sides of the family, as well as living in a culture where many families have assorted surnames) would be enough to make any solution untraumatic to a child.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Discussion Topic: Do Your Friends Have the Same Naming Style as You?

I have a question, and I'm not quite sure what it is. So maybe what I have is a discussion topic. The discussion topic is about whether your friends tend to have the same naming style as you or not---and how far off do they get.

And, backwards from there: if you met someone with a wildly different naming style than yours, would it feel like it Meant Something? That is, would you think to yourself, "Oh...her kids are named ____, ____, and ____?" and get a little sinking feeling because it seemed to indicate that the friendship might not work out?

My friend Mairzy and I have what I consider easily-friendship-compatible naming styles. The styles are different, yet we can both appreciate the other one's style---and we have areas of overlap. We are an "I like it for someone else's baby" friendship. We can discuss names recreationally, and we both tremendously enjoyed discussing name possibilities for the children who were born after we started being friends.

I have another friend who is more like Top 10 names for boys and girls, while I'm more like Top 50 for boys and Top 1000 for girls. If she were more interested in baby names, we'd be able to discuss them recreationally: I don't flinch from her choices and she doesn't flinch (much) from mine. Her choices have in fact given me a greater appreciation for Top 10 names.

I have another friend who has two children with names of my style, and one with a name that's quite different and of a style I dislike. I felt a little dip at the announcement of that third child's name---a feeling of "Maybe we don't know each other as well as I thought."

I was stressed when my friends who are also my brother and sister-in-law were expecting their first child. The subject felt fraught with meaning. I was intensely relieved when they picked something great. It wasn't the same style as mine, but it was in one of my Style I Admire categories rather than in one of my Style I Dislike categories.

If I meet someone at kindergarten drop-off/pick-up, and I ask the names of her children and she says names of a style I would never, ever consider because I dislike it so much, I admit I do think, "Huh. Maybe this isn't going to work out." But I'm always aware that my initial reaction might be completely unfounded, and I don't seriously ditch a potential friendship based on it; it's just one piece of information in the information-gathering stage of getting to know someone.

But it does catch my attention, just as many other not-necessarily-(but-maybe)-relevant-to-friendship details do: "Oh...they live in that absolutely enormous and beautifully-decorated house?" "Oh, she loved [movie I hated]?" "Oh, she dedicates two hours daily to housework?" "Oh, she doesn't know where the library is?" To me it's one of many indicators of compatibility: just as I'd make certain preliminary (not conclusive, but preliminary) assumptions about a family with a giant house and more luxury cars than adults, I'd make certain preliminary assumptions about a family with children named Apple, Pax, and Pilot.

How is it for you? Are you dying to know the names of a new acquaintance's children because it seems like Interesting and Important Information? Do the names add to the information you have about the person?

And how do the naming styles of your established friends compare with your own style?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Baby Girl Eason, Sister to Noah

Meg writes:
Right, here goes! I am not American, nor do I live in America, Buut I do read your site religiously both baby names and regular blog, and have done since before I had my son, whom your site helped name nearly 2 years ago. 
Sooo this feels like the obvious place to come when faced with the challenge of naming baby number 2! So I would be so grateful if you would consider helping me :) 

The baby's surname Will be  Eason and she is a girl :) her big brother's name is Noah and he has two middle names which id love and would like her to have two middle names too.
She is due end of Jan, but due to complications I had with my son could come earlier (eeep)

Im having a hugely hard time to name her... it seems its a million times harder to name a second baby.... without falling in to a "naming trap!"..... Me and my partner have very different tastes so thats the main issue...
Names I love 
Edith (Edie)
Harper (not very popular here ... yet!)
Betsy (he hates this name but its my fave!)
As you can see I seem to go more toward what are known as "old lady names".

Names he loves 

We both don't mind 

Neither of us are crazy for the two names we agree on ... they don't feel like her name ....

 Middle name Would most likely be Kate or kitty for family or Bobby also for family but obviously will depend on first name.

So we are getting No where fast! I know we have a little while but with an older sibling I really want to have a for him to call her so when she is born she isn't stuck with "Baby sister "as her name for months and months (this has happened to some of our friends) Im trying to stay away from the top 10 names (Noah wasn't top 10 here when I picked it :P) But it isn't the end of the world if its the right name and its slightly more popular than i'd hoped ... Im really hoping that having another countries spin on this will help to, shine some light on some names we would have never thought of .... ? maybe! ha 
Anyway thank you!!

The first names that come to mine are Hazel and Lila. Then Harriet.

When I saw Edith on your list, I first thought of Ruth, and then of Esther, then of Estelle, then of Dorothy/Dorothea and Martha and Lilith. Then I saw Talulah and thought of Tabitha, which made me think of Thora and Matilda.

Ada makes me think of Ava, and also of Ida and Ivy and Daisy and Jada and Dahlia and Deirdre. With Edith, it makes me think of Agatha.

Olive makes me think of Hazel and Lila as mentioned before, but also of Livia and Silvia and Willa.

Talulah makes me think of Lila and Tabitha as mentioned before, and also of Lucille and Lucy and Louisa and Eloise.

If he wouldn't mind YOU calling her Betsy as long as he didn't have to, it would be sweet to name her Elizabeth or Elsbeth or something similar (I see The Baby Name Wizard mentions Bettina) and have Betsy as a special nickname only you call her. Or you could use Elizabeth as one of her middle names, and then you can call her Betsy from that. Or of course you can just call her Betsy with nothing connecting it to her name---I can picture cooing "Aren't you my sweet little betsy-boo?" to a baby as an endearment rather than as a name.

Name update! Meg writes:
Hi !
I can't believe the pregnancy has flown by so fast and now here I am with my one month old baby daughter!
We went back and forth over names, I added many of beautiful names suggested by your brilliant readers to my list, and we got to her being just over a week old before we finally settled on a name listening to how important it seems to have choice with a name we went for one with nicknames for choice.

Darwin Bobby Violet
We call her Winnie and dee dee, the bobby part became more important when she arrived on my brother Roberts birthday!
Violet as v names are a family tradition on my partners side.

Thank you so much for all your help :)
(I have attached a photo :))

Monday, November 5, 2012

Baby Girl M!n, Sister to Theodore: Hard to Give Up the Name Eliza

Jane writes:
I really need your help! Our baby girl is due soon (Nov. 12) and we’re having an impossible time agreeing on a name. Her middle name will likely be Jane and we’re using my husband’s last name, which is M!n (rhymes with tin). I love the name Eliza, but my husband really doesn’t – to such a degree that it sadly won’t be her name. His favorite names are Lucy and Penelope, which are nice, but I'm having a hard time moving beyond Eliza. Because of the last name, we can’t use first names that begin with “C” or “Se,” and I would prefer to avoid names beginning with “B.” Also, we have a son named Theodore (Teddy).
Tremendous thanks in advance for your help! I am extremely eager to hear your suggestions and ideas from your readers.

I love the name Eliza, too, and Eliza Jane is so wonderful. Would it work to use Eliza or Eliza Jane or Jane Eliza as the middle name(s)? Then you'd still have your special name in there. This solution works especially well if your husband will be getting his choice of first name: the deal becomes "You have the name you love as the first name; then in victory you graciously allow me to use the name I love as the middle name." Lucy Jane Eliza M!n, Lucy Eliza M!n, Penelope Jane Eliza M!n, Penelope Eliza Jane M!n, etc.

The name Lila is similar in sound to Eliza. Lila Jane M!n.

Eloise, too. Eloise Jane M!n.

I also really love Penelope. That would be my choice over Lucy, especially with a Theodore: Theodore and Penelope are so great together.

Other names that come to mind when I think of Eliza/Penelope/Lucy and Theodore:


I might add to this list, but want to get this posted quickly since this could already be too late.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: How Many Repeated Endings are Okay Per Sibling Group?

Amy writes:
My husband and I are sort of in a debate and I think you are the one who could help us.  Although we're not expecting our third child (yet...that I know of!) we have already been going through the lists of names that we had for our previous two children and debating whether they would ever be 'useable' for us.  The problem is endings.  We have a son named Samuel, and my husband likes the name Nathaniel/Nathanael; I do as well, but I feel like another 'el' ending sounds odd.  Same with girl's names - our daughter is Clara, but all the names we like for girls (Anna, Louisa, Fiona, etc.) are soft-a ending names.
Is there a limit?  I mean, how much of one ending can a family handle?  Maybe you could do a poll?

Oh, interesting! I think it would be difficult to come up with a number answer ("Two. Two is the limit") because there are so many factors:

• How many children are in the family

• Whether the matching endings are given sequentially or with other children in between

• Whether the matching endings have been given to all the children born so far, or if other endings have also been used

• How similar/different the names are in other ways

• How unusual/attention-catching the particular ending is

• Whether the children with matched endings are all of the same sex

• Whether the matching endings sound exactly alike

• Whether the matching endings are spelled exactly alike

• Your particular family's feelings on how appealing it is to have matchy names

• Some other hard-to-pin-down factor that we know when we see/hear it (but which may vary from person/family to person/family)

If you had, say, five children, and two of them had names ending in an -en sound, but those children were first and fourth, and one of the children was a boy and the other was a girl, and the ending was spelled -en in one case and -yn in the other case, and one of the names had two syllables and the other had three and the consonant sounds were completely different---then it seems like it's no big deal, and you could even use an -in/-an/-en/-yn name on an additional child without a fuss.

If on the other hand you had two girls named Isabel and Annabel, that already seems like too many -bel endings---and I'm not sure it would help to separate them by several other names. Unless of course you LIKED the matching: there are, after all, plenty of families naming sibling sets Madalyn and Madison, or Ella and Emma.

I think what matters most is whether it feels too matchy or attention-grabbing when you're saying the list of kids (the definition of "too" will vary from person to person). Samuel and Nathaniel sound rhymey/sing-songy to me because of the similarity of the M and N sounds before the -uel/-iel, and also because of the similarity of the -uel and -iel sounds themselves. I MIGHT use both names in a family with a lot of children, if there were several children in between: Samuel, Clara, William, Emma, Nathaniel, for example.

For comparison, a name like Paul, while it ends in L like Nathaniel and Samuel, gives me no such urge to increase separation. Samuel and Paul have completely different sounds: the -l ending sounds different, the letters before the -l ending sound different ("yool/yul" vs. "awl"), the syllables are different, everything is different. It also helps that there'd be another child in between: Samuel, Clara, and Paul just sounds like everyone has a pleasing L-sound to tie the names together.

The repeating -a ending seems almost like a non-issue. Many, many names end with -a, and it's not very ear-catching or distinctive. With the example of Clara and Anna, they don't sound rhymey even though they have the same number of syllables and same emphasis: the letter-sounds before the -a ending are completely different, as are the rest of the sounds in the names. If you wanted to increase the difference, you almost couldn't do better than Clara and Fiona/Louisa: different end-sounds, different syllables, AND different emphasis. If I encountered a family with daughters named Clara, Fiona, Anna, and Louisa, I might notice that they all had -a endings (which I wouldn't consider negative), or I might just notice that they were a great sibling group.

If a combination does bother you, there are often options: Samuel and Nathan instead of Samuel and Nathaniel; Clara and Anne/Annabel instead of Clara and Anna.